Gaining Strokes – U.S. Open

Adam Scott and the rest of the PGA Tour descend upon Pebble Beach Golf Links this week for the 119th U.S. Open.

The 119th edition of the national championship in the United States heads to the most recognizable location in all of professional golf, Pebble Beach Golf Links, for the 2019 U.S. Open. While this is a yearly stop on the PGA Tour for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am each February, players will be greeted with a very different course than they see in the winter this time around. Fairways this week will be roughly half the size as they are during the Pro-Am, placing a priority on being accurate off the tee instead of possessing shear power. Pebble Beach already possesses the smallest greens in professional golf, and this week those greens will be protected by gnarly rough that is common at the U.S. Open. Players will need to be spot on in their approach game and also utilize their ability to save par, or avoid bogeys, from the around the green should they miss fire on their approaches. After a series of mistakes made by the USGA involving the speed of the greens in recent years, the players this year have been assured that green speeds will not reach “hockey rink” level, but that remains to be seen.

156 players will tee it up this week, with a smaller percentage than usual qualifying to play on the weekend. U.S. Open rules state that the Top 60 and ties, not Top 70 and ties as we are used to on the PGA Tour, will make the cut this week. This further adds to the difficulty of getting a 6 of 6 lineup through the cut, and further promotes the idea of a more balanced lineup in my opinion. The U.S. Open is famous for taxing the entire game that a player comes in with this week, which is why I’m going to look at Strokes Gained: Tee To Green as my major stat of the week this week. Within that, I’ll pull out Strokes Gained: Approach and Strokes Gained: Around The Green for the reasons I mentioned above, as well as a sprinkling of Bogey Avoidance in constructing my stats model.

So let’s get into it – here are my selections for this week’s U.S. Open from Pebble Beach!

$10,000 Range

Dustin Johnson ($11,300 DK, $12,200 FD)

Dustin Johnson enters this week’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach hoping to capture the 2nd major championship of his career. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

It is tough to knock DJ’s history at Pebble Beach – 7 Top 10s in the last 11 years here including an 8th place finish at the 2010 U.S. Open held here. Dustin has his own checkered history with the U.S. Open, so breaking through here would definitely alleviate some of the pain he has felt in the past at this event. Long term in my stats model he ranks out as good as anyone (4th over his last 24 rounds, 3rd over his last 50 rounds, and 2nd over his last 100 rounds) but we shouldn’t need to be reminded about his pedigree. The poa greens here at Pebble won’t bother Dustin either as that surface has traditionally been his favorite over his career, which can’t be said for other contenders like Brooks Koepka. The amazing stat on Dustin is that he has no lost more than 0.5 strokes Tee To Green in any event since the PGA Championship at Baltusrol…in 2016!! When the full game needs to be on display and the stats, course history, and recent form (4 Top 6s in his last six stroke play events) I’m willing to eat the big price on Johnson if I’m paying up this week.

Rory McIlroy ($10,500 DK, $11,800 FD)

Watching last week’s RBC Canadian Open should tell you everything you need to know about the form that McIlroy comes into this year’s U.S. Open sporting. 4 Top 8 finishes in his last six stroke play events, including wins last week in Canada and at the Players Championship at Sawgrass places his current form as one of the best in this year’s field. As always, he is a stats monster as well, ranking no worse than 3rd in this field in my stats model over any range, from last 4 rounds all the way to last 100 rounds. He hasn’t lost more than 0.6 strokes Tee To Green since the Honda Classic in 2018 as well, so there is little doubt that the best driver of the golf ball in the world will be ready for this event. The fact, however, that he does rely on his driver so much is a bit concerning at Pebble Beach. This week most players will be clubbing down off the tee to avoid fairway bunkers and fairways that narrow dramatically the further you hit the ball off the tee. The other drawback to Rory here is his history, which he doesn’t have much of but what we do have isn’t good (2 missed cuts in his only two starts ever here.) As one of the best players in the world he can definitely overcome that history if he plays him game – and there isn’t any reason to think that won’t happen this week.

$9,000 Range

Justin Thomas ($9,300 DK, $11,400 FD)

Justin Thomas hopes to carry over the momentum he created last week in Canada to Pebble Beach this week at the U.S. Open.

After missing the PGA Championship 4 weeks ago with a wrist injury, Thomas is back in great form after a strong showing last week at the RBC Canadian Open. His 20th place finish was a bit misleading as he was 2nd in the field in Strokes Gained: Tee To Green, T8th in Strokes Gained: Off The Tee and T9th in Strokes Gained: Approach. Only the putter let him down, as it has in each of his last 5 starts in which Storkes Gained stats are kept. But he is back on his favorite putting surface here at Pebble at appears to be healthy once again. His only start here at Pebble was a missed cut at the Pro-Am back in 2014, but for this price I’m going to play the upside and bank on him being ready to roll again this week.

Jason Day ($9,100 DK, $10,800 FD)

If there is one thing we can say about Jason Day it’s that he can sure create a plethora of narratives for himself leading up to an event. While there are no healthy concerns swirling around Day this week, he has added fellow countrymen Steve Williams (Tiger’s old caddie) to the bag this week. He has also made public comments about wanting to recommit himself to the game and reach the #1 ranking in the world again despite underachieving over the last few years of his career. This track appears to be a great place for him to start as he has posted 6 Top 11 finishes in the last 7 events held at Pebble Beach. If you only looked at a stats model there is no chance you would roster Day this week – lately he has been horrific. But the one constant for Day is his short game, most notably his putter which has gained strokes for him in 10 straight measured events. While putting is definitely the most variant of stats on Tour, there is no denying Day’s ability on the greens. And at a course that will require the sharpest of short games to save par if a green is missed in regulation, Day could be the most trusted player in the world to grind out a championship performance here.

$8,000 Range

Hideki Matsuyama ($8,800 DK, $10,400 FD)

Hideki Matsuyama looks to breakthrough for his 1st career major victory this week at Pebble Beach.

For those that have been faithful followers of mine now you know that I am an admitted Fan Boy of Hideki’s, but all bias aside I feel like this could be the week for the top ranked Japanese player in the world. He ranks no worse than 10th in rounds range in my stats model (including being #1 in my model over his last 50 rounds) and when you break down his performances it becomes crystal clear. He hasn’t lost strokes Tee To Green since last year’s PGA Championship, has gained strokes on Approach in 16 consecutive events and Around The Green in 10 straight. The putter has forever been what holds Hideki back, but he has gained strokes putting in 3 straight events (and 4 of his last 5) and does putt better on poa than any other surface over his career. If the USGA leaves the greens alone and doesn’t make them impossible to play, as they have done before, I really like Hideki’s chances to breakthrough here despite never having played the course in competition.

Adam Scott ($8,600 DK, $10,500 FD)

This seems like a blast from the past for most casual golf fans who recognize Scott’s name from his best year’s almost a decade ago now. But Scotty is back now that he has found a putting stroke that has proven to be the most consistent of his career. Scott ranks #1 over his last 4 rounds and #2 over his last 8 and 12 rounds in my stats model, showing that he is in great form coming into Pebble Beach. Scott is another guy that has putted significantly better on poa than any other surface in his career despite not having played well at Pebble Beach specifically (3 missed cuts in his last 4 appearances.) I personally never thought we would see the day where Adam Scott gained strokes putting in 8 straight events – but that day is upon us now! His Approach and Tee To Green games have been outstanding lately – if he continues to putt well he is once again a contender here at the U.S. Open.

$7,000 Range

Webb Simpson ($7,700 DK, $9,600 FD)

Webb Simpson comes to Pebble Beach hoping this will be the site of his 2nd career U.S. Open Championship.

The 2012 U.S. Open champion from the Olympic Club in San Francisco is poised and ready to add a 2nd U.S. Open trophy to his case this week at Pebble Beach. Simpson is on a great run, posting 5 Top 20 finishes in his last 7 events. Only at the Valspar Championship in March did he lose strokes Tee To Green or Approach, so statistically he has been very good as of late. Fresh off of a 2nd place finish last week in Canada in which he gained over 9 strokes on the greens, Simpson has put his total game on display this season, missing only 1 cut and posting 7 Top 20 finishes in 2019. Webb is another player that hasn’t played Pebble Beach often, but his game fits this style of play here that doesn’t require bombing the ball off the tee. I’m going to continue to ride the hot had with Simpson this week.

Henrik Stenson ($7,600 DK, $9,500 FD)

Stenson, like Simpson, is another guy who has been on a ball striking tear as of late. Ranking 8th in my stats model over his last 24 rounds, Stenson has made 7 straight cuts including an 8th place finish at the Canadian Open last week in which he finished 3rd in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach. Saying Stenson has been a streaky putter over his career would probably be giving him too much credit on the greens, but he does traditionally putt better on poa and with his approach game hitting into these small greens I look for his putting deficiencies to nullified a bit here. He hasn’t played here since the U.S. Open in 2010 (where he finished 29th) but as another player who loves clubbing down off the tee I think his game sets up perfectly here this week.

$6,000 Range

Byeong Hun An ($6,900 DK, $8,700 FD)

Byeong Hun An hopes to find his putting strokes on the greens at Pebble Beach during this year’s U.S. Open.

With the limited cut this week I’m really going to try and stay more balanced this week so I don’t have to dip into this range much. But if you are dead set on rostering a couple of the big boys up top, consider An for one of your lower spots. #10 in my stats model over his last 24 rounds An is a ball striking master that has only lost stokes on Approach and Tee To Green twice in 2019. The downside – he can’t putt on any surface. His last start at the Memorial resulted in the only positive strokes metric in putting his has displayed in 2019, so don’t expect him to turn into Jordan Spieth on the greens this week. But if he is just average on the greens he has the game to contend anywhere. The upside is definitely there if the approach game stays hot for An.

Scottie Scheffler ($6,700 DK, $8,200 FD)

Like I said, the pool to choose from dries up quickly in the $6K range this week, but Scheffler one with a little potential this week. Dancing around between the PGA Tour and Tour this season Scheffler has posted 7 Top 7 finishes on the Web Tour, including a win 2 weeks ago. He’s played 2 PGA Tour events so far this year, making the cut in both and finishing inside the Top 35 both times. As a dive play down here I think Scheffler has a better chance to make the cut this week than most in this range, which is all we are asking from out $6K guys.

As always, thank you very much for giving my article a glance this week as you prepare for the U.S. Open. If you have any questions you would like to ask me about your lineup or about my article in general, join us on DPA Premium where you can get exclusive access to myself as well as the rest of our other experts for NBA, NHL, MLB and NFL. I’ll be available to answer questions about your lineups this week from 8PM to 11PM CST on Wednesday, June 12th – so sign up today!!

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